Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Open letter to all film and TV directors

(contains much swearing)

To: Every Director In The World,

Hello. TV's James Moran here, with a small request...

STOP SHAKING THE FUCKING CAMERA AROUND. FOR FUCK'S SAKE.

Someone sweated blood on that script, and now a large crew is sweating more blood to bring it to life, actors are pouring their hearts out, people with gaffer tape and odd tools are staying up late and getting up early to build and maintain things, stunt people are risking life and limb to make it all look great. And I would REALLY LIKE TO SEE WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON. I cannot do that if you are SHAKING THE FUCKING CAMERA AROUND LIKE AN EPILEPTIC SITTING ON A BUCKING BRONCO WHILE STARING INTO A STROBE LIGHT.

Hey, don't get me wrong. I like a bit of dramatic shaky cam. I get the whole "documentary-style, let's just happen to catch the action" thing. Battlestar Galactica does it, but does it *properly* - most importantly, it catches the action, and then STAYS on the action. The camera's still moving, but it lets you see what is happening. But when you judder the camera in a frenzy, you are not doing that. You won't win any prizes for directing if I CANNOT SEE WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON. THAT IS NOT DIRECTING. THAT IS WANKING. You may as well stick a camera on a piece of string, spin it around your head, and film a big shaky blur for 90 minutes.

It's not much to ask for. Just make sure that the camera is pointing at the thing you're trying to film. That is my directing tip to you, trick of the trade, free of charge. Tell all your little director friends, too, pass it on. Thanks. Before I go cross-eyed from the fucking wobbly screen.

Oh, and by the way, if any editors are reading: There's no need to have 8000 cuts in under a second. You don't have to use tiny snippets from every single take and angle. Especially if it's a fight sequence, where it's more impressive if you don't interrupt the action so much. Also, stop dropping out lots of frames and speeding it up so that it ends up looking like a fucking Benny Hill chase sequence. I've paid for sound *and* visuals. So just let me see what's going on. Cheers.

Yours sincerely,

TV's James Moran, audience member

37 comments:

srah-scottydog said...

THIS

Every word.

Dan said...

How do you feel about the Bourne movies? A good style/clarity trade-off, a la BSG? Or just headache-inducing dizziness?

Ben Robinson said...

I wholeheartedly agree James!! ESPECIALLY WITH FIGHTS, as you say. For an awesome fight scene, awesomely filmed, check out the final sword-fight in TIGERCAGE 2.... Lovin' the Twitter-of-consciousness too!

Nicole said...

Very nicely said :)

C.A. Young said...

Word.

Tiffany said...

AMEN!

Sometimes I wonder if I'm just getting too old, but then I realize that I'm not and these people just suck.

A Comedic Author, With Rat Training Tendencies said...

The movie that made me motion sick was that Sci-fi epic Cloverfield. I had to carry a barf bag for two days..and not cos we paid for the film this time.

Laurie said...

**pumps fist**

Salina said...

LOL!!! I love this! I agree! this MTV generation shit is having a great wank circle where one person thinks 'hey, they don't do this much. I'll try it' and then every fucking person has to do it and the studios- oh my LORD the freakin studios- look at the nice clean dailies and go "that's a bit slow, can you do it more like 24 or CSI?" And when the talented director who has a brain in his head says no to that, they fire him and bring in one of the twenty thousand up-and-comings who think this is just as great as the studio and they'll roll over and do whatever the nice man with the money says.

oh... my... did that become a rant? It did. Sorry. Let me just hide this soap box.

burntcopper said...

:scratches head: maybe I've managed to avoid them all. or just got so thoroughly borg'd by The Shield that I simply don't notice it when people point it out in BSG and expect fast cutting and documentary style in my action shows.

(Graham) Max Turner said...

Amen James. This fad first came about (for me) watching NYPD Blue, and has gotten steadily worse over the subsequent years.

I would add to the "stop shaking the camera" rant with one along the lines of, "enough with the overly-close-up shots during an action sequence" - pull the fuck back and let us see what's going on. Give us a chance at seeing the context of what you're showing us. Grrrrr.

This makes me think I must see if I can resurrect my blog. Lost it last year whilst overseas, and never bothered to save it. Think I've got the files somewhere. :\

maxine-mirkwood said...

Yes. Just YES!

Anonymous said...

The Kingdom is an apposite example here. Frantic cuts and Muhammad Ali/Michael J Fox working the cameras. Thank you so much for bringing this up. Directors could learn a thing or two from Hitchcock.

Lizzie said...

TV's James Moran is one of the good guys. Props.

Shane Knight said...

"Muhammad Ali/Michael J Fox working the cameras"

Brilliant!!

Took me a second to get it like, but brilliant.

Imagian them on Parky?

Mark Clapham said...

I don't mind the shakycam so much, especially when there's a narrative excuse like Cloverfield/Blair Witch, but my god the fast-cutting fight scene thing pisses me off sometimes.

If the shots don't flow your eyes just get lost, and it often seems to be covering for actors who can't do more than one or two moves at a time.

My other half has another good modern bugbear - the HD/digital movie thing where everything on screen is in the same focus, so you have no idea what your eyes are supposed to be focusing on.

potdoll said...

They did that in WAZ and I couldn't eat my Maltesers.

Sofluid said...

Oh I agree, totally!

You should start a petition!

Joe Gibson said...

Amen, brother.

I was directing on the weekend and the producer kept bugging me to move the camera more. I was shooting handheld but refused point blank to do the whole shaky cam thing. A wee bit of movement is enough, thank you very much.

I threw him off the set.

MatBlackmore said...

Shaky-cam I can live with if it's used at the right time (to make the viewer feel a voyeur or part of the action) but multi-slam-cut just tells me that the director didn't get the shots right and they're trying to save the scene in the edit. It allows filmmakers to be lazy with their setups. Sometimes that can't be helped, due to circumstances beyond anyone's control. Sometimes you may want to create confusion and disorientation. But spare us the continual use. That means you, Marc Forster. Give us a quantum of solace, for god's sake.

Dozeymagz said...

Well said sir! Can't stand shaky camera shots - not just in movies either - but especially in those AWFUL TV ads that try to pretend they're 'spur of the moment - 'Real Life' interviews with GENUINE members of the public cornered in some randomly chosen location! GAHHH!!!! Also particularly when the shaky cameras are during a cookery prog - talk about making you feel sicky!!! Hideous beyond belief...

... I have now forgotten what I was ranting about.... but I meant it! Every last stinking word! Haaa!

Dim said...

Ooh, Dozeymagz, what about the dentist interviews for Sensodyne? Where the camera is shaky AND at a weird angle?Eh? Eh? James Moran taps the mood of the nation once again...
I thought of you yesterday, by the way. I was driving along and passed a store called "Save on Foods" only the light in the "F" had gone out, so it said "Save on oods" and I imagined a whole line of Ood with price labels on, and thought of you. I know you only did the one Dr Who ep and it wasn't an Ood one, but I still thought of you. Another example of how your blog has polluted every aspect of my life, even when I've moved to Canada.

jim said...

Another nail smashed squarely on the head, Moran. Today's directors clearly spawned from the post-Pepsi Generation crop of underparented, overmedicated, acronym-diagnosed children.

It's bad enough that a weak collection of film school parlor tricks (chief among them the bogglecam effect you mentioned) have replaced originality, innovation and artistic exploration and choice; worse yet is that newcomers have no qualms about adopting *horrible* trends like these gimmicky effects, simply because other productions employ them. Mediocrity in film and television is a vast, shallow mudhole where there's always room for one more. Monkey sees MTV videos with rapid cuts. Monkey grows up to make movies with rapid cuts.

Do any of these directors ever scrutinize their work, and then come to the realization that they're clinging desperately to a played-out shortcut? Will the next director to bogglecam a fight scene, or depict someone firing two pistols in a slow-mo dive-and-roll, admit that he's the last fly dining on a cold, played-out hunk of poo?

No. He'll follow the swarm to the next warm lump. And that's how actors like Vin Diesel wind up in movies with sassy child co-stars and talking chihuahuas. Deliver us from this, already.

david lemon said...

Yup, with you on that. 'In The Loop' the new Armando Ianucci film is another example of good 'shakeycam' as it's going for a mock-doc effect.

I used to shoot fly on the wall stuff and only moved the camera in order to follow what was going on (eg following the police into a crack den). Moving the camera around for no reason just takes out of what you're watching-and gives you a headache.

Oli said...

"You may as well stick a camera on a piece of string, spin it around your head, and film a big shaky blur for 90 minutes."

Ladies and gentlemen, Aliens vs. Predator

Chuck said...

Thank god that's been said. Now finally we can get back to zooming the camera in and out quickly to the beat of some groovy music.

Dozeymagz said...

Gahhhh!!! Yes DIM - all my most hideous nightmares rolled into one - dentists, shaky cameras and bad angles *shudder*

martin said...

And so us all.

And I was going to say AVP Oli, you spoilspork - it's the worst example I've seen of the drunken camera man/edited by molineaux style.

the thing I hate about "docmentary style" shaky camera movement is that you don't get it in real documentaries, presumably because the cameraman is capible of holding a camera still for more than 3 seconds.

clarrisani said...

I think every viewer in the world is now in love with you.

Dom Carver said...

You tell them sunshine ;-)

James said...

Couldn't agree more.

It's also deteriorating the composition of a shot. I don't think most modern directors even know how to shoot a scene in a single shot, anymore.

osirun said...

Yes. I believe something happened in the new Daniel Craig Bond movie, in between the moody brooding, but I'm damned if I could make out what it was.

fortunesfool73 said...

Well said, sir. This phenomena is really starting to get on my tits. Does no one remember the steady-cam. Just blogged on this very same thing myself, minus the swearing.

blearyboy said...

You may not watch a lot of CBeebies, but there's an awful lot of shaky POV camerawork in the Tweenies. Presumably, under-5's these days prefer their TV with a little more edge.

Also, Postman Pat now has a helicopter. What's up with that?

Matthew Merkovich said...

Amen! I even took this a step further in my own little blog.

http://tinyurl.com/pu27aq

erasure19 said...

I was hugely anticipating the Battlestar Gallactica series from Netflix...two episodes in I had such a roaring headache from the jerky camera BS I just gave up. Apparently in this highly-evolved universe they can time warp but everyone has Parkinson's Disease. Series removed from queue. Thank you shitty director.

Shane Knight said...

WFT?!!!

Did someone just blast BSG?

"Apparently in this highly-evolved universe they can time warp but everyone has Parkinson's Disease. Series removed from queue"

If you stop watching this show then you may has well cut out your eyes!!

Anyone can Time Warp, even in this day an age.

It's just a jump to the left....